Barry Lyndon

Continuing my Kubrick series, i will now focus on Barry Lyndon. Like with last, i plan to cover this movie ind depth(or as in depth as i can manage anyway) so there will probably be spoilers present.

Though this is a period piece, it takes a very unique approach not done by most period movies. It showed that those with the fancy costumes were no different than those at the bottom. I myself found this approach refreshing and interesting. The only exception to this is Lady Lyndon who never really dose anything that could be considered ‘bad”, and considering how little rights women had during that time there wasn’t much she could have done even if she wanted. Even though Lyndon is trying to attain as much power as possible through any means necessary, he does have moments of sympathy, like when he loses his child. And even tho Bullingdon starts off feeling extremely sympathetic due to the way Barry treats him and the way he used his mother to attain greater status, when he came back to take his revenge on Barry i wasn’t rooting for him.

The movie shows both the best and worst in human nature. Going back to Barry, at the beginning he doesn’t see Lady Lyndon as much more than a way to raise his status, he does come around to have true feelings for her, and absolutely loves the child he has with her. And Bullingdon’s anger at Barry ends up consuming him to the point where he wants to duel him even after Barry loses his son. Some have criticized this movie as being cold, but to me this movie is far from it.

The later scenes when Lyndon comes to truly love his wife exudes a sense of warmth, to me anyways. And even in the beginning Barry’s obsession with Nora shows how all-consuming young love can be sometimes. True young love today usually isn’t concluded with duels, but that doesn’t mean they don’t sometimes lead to drastic and extreme actions. And when Barry tells Grogan he didn’t write to his mother due to his own shame in losing it, i think that is a very human moment.I myself have had quite a few moments where i didn’t want to tell my parents something out of shame. Yes some of the actions characters take in this movie could be considered cold, with barry’s initial plans involving Ms. Lyndon but that is how people are sometimes. But in real life people aren’t always warm and fuzzy.

The film uses mostly natural light, which gives it a realistic look unlike most period movies. This perfectly complements the narrative’s realistic look at human nature and all of its complexities.There are a couple of scenes where Kubrick expertly sees candles to light the scene, such as when Grogan talks to Barry in a tent. Another scene of visual brilliance is the french skirmish. Here Kubrick communicates the devastation of war quite well.

The film also uses voice-over in a interesting way, which allows it to add to the film without making it seem like Kubrick is relying on it to tell the story. The film also features some great camerawork by Kubrick. One of my favorite moments is when Lady Lyndon catches barry cheating, Kubrick uses a quick almost jarring zoom in. One could imagine what she see’s feels as jarring to her. The film uses a understated soundtrack that adds a old timey feeling to the movie.

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19 Responses to Barry Lyndon

  1. le0pard13 says:

    Fine look at this film, Julian. I’ve not seen this film in ages. Your post has me wanting to watch it again. Thanks.

  2. rtm says:

    I just read this at another blog, I didn’t know Kubrick did a period drama. I might rent this one day.

  3. Interesting that you are looking at lots of Kubrick films; my glorious unemployment starts next week and I thought a good first thing to do would be to work my way through my Kubrick boxed set. I seem to remember that Barry Lyndon is a gorgeous looking film, though long.

    I went to a exhibition of all things Kubrick in Berlin years ago, and if I remember, the way that he shot some of those candle-light scenes was an industry first, he came up with a way to shoot effectively in really low light.

    Nice review, and I’m now looking forward to getting to Barry Lyndon in my Kubrick-a-thon.

    • Yes, the visuals in Barry Lyndon are great…although all of Kubricks movie’s have great visuals(I’m not a big fan of 2001 myself, but i can appreciate the visuals in it)

      Barr Lyndon seems to be one of Kburicks least popular work, so there is a chance you may not like it. Then again, like i said i’m not a big fan of 2001 and that is regarded as one of his best, so what do i know πŸ˜›

  4. idawson says:

    I really want to see this – I have always wanted to see this actually. What I have seen of the film is that it is so beautiful; it really looks like a work of art.

  5. filmplicity says:

    Barry Lyndon is one of thos films that always appealed to me but I that I find difficult to sit down and watch. Kubrick is like that for me. I like the idea of him as a filmmaker andthe idea of watching his films but when it comes to it I can’t bring myself to sit through them unless I’mm in the mood. I guess he’s one those you have to be in the right frame of mind to watch.

  6. Chris says:

    I had problems with the running time, which I feel could have been shorter. No real big stars didn’t help its cause at the box office.
    As always with Kubrick, Barry Lyndon is a technically very accomplished film, the scene of candles lighting the room you mention apparently was due to use of special camera lenses, they said in the Kubrick documentary “A life in pictures”

  7. Tyler says:

    I bloody love this film. One of the best movies of the 1970s decade. The second half of the movie I found particularly interesting. The scene where Bullingdon confronts Barry in front of dozens of guests and is suddenly and violently attacked by his father gives me chills every time. So startlingly powerful. Easily one of Kubrick’s best, right up there with Eyes Wide Shut, 2001 and Dr. Strangelove. Great review Julian.

  8. markuswelby1 says:

    was just thinking about this film the other day since O’neal is in the news for having cancer. I still haven’t seen it and its been collecting dust in my Netflix queue.

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